The Last Laugh goes from strength to strength and the Merry Hell is born

We restarted in mid-January, with a new second club at the Springvale in Crookesmoor. This time we decided to give it a different name to avoid confusion, and came up with the Merry Hell. The logo used the Last Laugh grim reaper doing a working men's club style stand-up act. We ran the Merry Hell on Thursday nights, and got the same two acts to do both shows. One would start the show at the Last Laugh, then get driven up the hill to the Merry Hell to close the show there; the other would do it the other way around. Because they were only having to come up for one night, the acts didn't mind being paid considerably less than twice what they would have got for just one show. Not that we were making excessive profits ourselves - ticket prices were still low at £3.50 or £2.50 for concessions. Roger became the regular compère at the Merry Hell, and as a result I went back to compèring the Last Laugh every week.

Having flopped at the Royal, we decided to really crank up the publicity for our new second club. We started door-to-door leafleting, using a Sheffield A-Z to highlight the streets to be leafleted. Instantly, our audiences increased - so there's a tip for budding comedy club promoters. In March, we introduced the reservation hotline, which was just a cheap answerphone attached to my home phone line. We quickly found that the shows were selling out in advance through reservations.

 

We also started to be able to get acts from big agencies, particularly Avalon, as long as we booked them direct rather than via their agents. The catch was that we weren't allowed to advertise them. The first was Alan Parker Urban Warrior, but sadly I didn't take a note of who the second one was, so I'm afraid that information is lost to posterity.

 

One interesting aspect of the two-clubs-in-one-night format was when an act would do really well at one club and really badly at the other. The wonderful Tim Vine, for example, all but died opening the show at the Merry Hell on 24 March, but absolutely stormed the closing spot at the Last Laugh. I should point out though that the next time he came, he stormed both clubs.

 

 

Thursday 13 January: Ian Stone & Dreenagh Darrell

Thursday 20 January: Lindsay Moran & Dolly Dupree

Thursday 27 January: Alistair McGowan & Ronnie Ancona

Thursday 3 February: Kevin Eldon & Ian Keable

Thursday 10 February: Ian Cognito & Ian Ross

Thursday 17 February: The Big Fun Club & Milton Jones

Thursday 24 February: Dave Thompson & Matt Welcome

Thursday 3 March: Logan Murray & Marian Pashley

Thursday 10 March: Phil Davey & Alan Parker Urban Warrior

Thursday 17 March: Neville Raven & Nick Wilty

Thursday 24 March: Paul Thorne & Tim Vine

Thursday 31 March: Miles Crawford & Terry Alderton

Thursday 7 April: Vladimir McTavish & Mike Milligan

Thursday 14 April: Martin Coyote & Dave Cohen

Thursday 21 April: Dominic Holland & Mark Maier

Thursday 28 April: Simon Lipson & Ardal O'Hanlon

Thursday 5 May: Earl Okin & Smiley

Thursday 12 May: Steve Bowditch & Stephen Frost (guest compère: John Harrison)

Thursday 19 May: Bob Dillinger & Sue Beard

Thursday 26 May: Paul B Edwards & Gina Ryan

Thursday 2 June: Marc Blake & Special Guest

Thursday 9 June: The Amazing Mr Smith & Brute Farce

Thursday 16 June: Steve Best & Dylan Moran

Thursday 23 June: Helen Austin & Keith Dover

Thursday 30 June: Lee Hurst & Paul Tonkinson

Thursday 7 July: Steve Gribbin & Paul Rogan